Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mustang Utility Vehicle

I was working away building some cupboard space in the barn up here at Bottle Cove this morning when I suddenly realised that getting the large sheets of plywood for bracing the walls on the small addition we are currently making to the cottage was not the only challenge to be resolved, so far as transporting the building materials from the city is concerned.

The thing is that Bottle Cove is a long hike from the hardware supply stores in the city. Arranging transport is a drag, partly because costs are high, but also because you have to wait until the next truck is coming out this way. In these circumstances, the dearly loved Mustang is a considerably less than an optimal solution. Well, that is not strictly fair. There is, of course, the “in principle” possible option of fitting a tow bar to the car and using a trailer. But for reasons that will remain unspecified here, that is strictly an “in principle” possibility. In practice, the possibility simply does not exist.

The challenge of transporting large sheets of plywood was resolved yesterday when Lawrence, our builder friend, replied positively to my query of whether it would be OK to cut the sheets in half long ways. That way could slide through the space between the trunk (or boot, as it used to be) and the folded down rear seats. By the time they pushed up against the driver and passenger seats there would be less than a metre of length hanging out the back. By the time they were bound securely together with plastic film from the roll provided by the store (think: 20 metres of Glad Wrap wound round and round the load), and the trunk cover pulled down over the protrusion as far as possible, and held there by rope running from the spoiler under the load and back to the other side of the spoiler, repeated multiple times, we'd be reasonably good to go.

So far so good. But we had forgotten the door, hadn't we? The 32 inch wide door that comes in a wooden frame. Unlike the plywood, it cannot be cut down the middle.

In a “senior” moment I had forgotten about the frame. The door itself, at just 32 inches, would not be a problem, I thought, because the gap between the trunk and the seats is close to 33 inches wide. So the door alone would fit much the same as 4 lengths of half-width plywood. Jackpot. At that, we could get the various lengths of 2 inch by 6 inch timber needed for the job(8 foot lengths) as well. They could sit under the door and give it something nice to lie on.

With this naive faith to guide us—having forgotten about the frame—we headed for the city and the store, and made the purchase in the shop. On the way in we had been delighted by a typical instance of local creativity. As we approached Frenchman's Bay Michele exclaimed: “Is that someone water skiing? Why, yes it is. That's a first. They must be freezing!!” The brute fact is that the Humber Arm is almost as cold in summer as it is in winter. Well, there might be 10 degrees or so in it, but that's not a lot when you consider that for the winter months the Arm is frozen.

The initial exclamation was quickly followed by two statements of extreme delight. “Hang on, that's not a fishing dory towing the skier, is it?” Sure enough, it was. And second: “It's OK, they're in a wet suit. Mind you, they'll still be freezing”.

Now, we've seen some fishing dories moving at pretty good rates before, but this one was fairly screaming. If there were Formula One Fishing, this lot would have been heading the pack.

With the image fixed in the mind's eye, we were still chuckling when we reached the hardware place. And the memory soon turned too inspiration: at the precise we were presented with the door, fixed inside a frame, blowing it out to 36 inches wide, and 6 inches deep, AND the several solid hunks of framing timber. Our aspirations were met with bemused looks on the faces of the two guys working out back loading hardware into Dodge Ram Trucks and the like.

I suggested that if we put the door in first, with the door itself to the bottom and the frame opening facing up we might be able to load the timber into the available space and have it sticking out over the end of the frame, somewhat skywards of the Mustang's roof level. The lads in the loading bay reckoned it was possible, but the way they said it did not inspire confidence that they actually believed what they reckoned. They were more than ready to assist, however. One said that if we drove slowly and watched out for the bumpy parts of the road around Curling, and that if “the authorities” were in another part of town during the next hour or so, we might make it.

By the time the stuff was loaded, the Mustang Utility Vehicle was doing a fair impersonation of a Dash 8 airplane tail section profile. If we'd nailed one of the timbers at right angles to the apex of the load there'd have been little in it. The yard bay lads found us a bit of strapping to add to our assorted ropes and bungee cords, and they came to light with a couple of lengths of day-glo orange ribbon, which they attached to the end of the load. We ran some rope from the trunk catch round the back of the load and through the car to the passenger seat. Three times round the seat and back again to the end of the load and, finally, back to the trunk latch, completed the exercise—that is, apart from the second rope trick, involving the trunk spoiler and the load itself.

The water skiing had ended by the time we crawled back through Frenchman's Bay. And "the authorities" were, indeed, passing time some place else. In this wonderfully un-normed part of the world no one really seemed to even blink, and the cars following showed admirable faith in our packaging, being quite happy to sit reasonably close in behind until there was a chance to pass. I'm not even convinced the officials would have seen it that much differently, had they happened upon us en route, but was nonetheless pleased not to have to put that hunch to the test. But it stands to reason that wherever a fishing dory can morph to a high speed pleasure craft, a Mustang Utility Vehicle might be excused for imitating the aerodynamics of a Dash 8.

For the record, the aerodynamics were pretty good.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cove cuisine

About the last thing I did before heading north for summer was finish reading a very fun book called “What would Keith Richards Do?, by Jessica Pallington West. As the author describes it, the book is a kind of unofficial or unauthorised Keith Richards tao. It's a great read. Keith's Commandments are screamingly brilliant. Reading the book was, of course, just an appetizer ahead of sitting down to Keith's 400 something page magnum opus due out around October this year. Getting the tao coincided with getting a copy of the re-issued “Exile” – containing the dozen or so previously unreleased tracks – and pre-ordering the magnum opus.

The Keith tao concludes with Keith's mum's recipe for Shepherd's Pie which, according to Keith, is “the one food I can eat 365 days a year”. So, I promised that soon after arriving at Bottle Cove this summer the splendor of the experience should be accompanied by two foodie events: a lobster feed, and a good outing of Keith's mum's shepherd's pie.

The pie came first, and it was wonderful. It actually lasted 3 nights. And there is something to be said for watching the tide roll in and out of Bottle Cove, whatever weather the Gulf of St Lawrence is throwing at it on the day, eating shepherd's pie and drinking a cold Budweiser, aptly advertised as “the world's best beer”.

According to the tao of Keith, you gather together 3 pounds of potatoes that you peel and dice, together with a tablespoon of butter and as much or little salt and pepper as your taste dictates. Besides these ingredients you will need 2 pounds of ground beef or lamb. (Purists say that if you use beef it is, strictly speaking, cottage pie. Keith's mum used beef and Keith called it shepherd's pie, which means that here, as elsewhere, the purists can go jump in the Cove.) Along with the beef you'll need a pair of chopped large onions and a pair of grated carrots. Gather 18 ounces of beef stock and a tablespoon of corn starch, and you're ready to go.

You cook the potatoes til they are tender, and add some salt and pepper, and put this to one side. Then you heat a fry pan or skillet and add the ground beef and onions, with some salt and pepper. Then put in the carrots and stock, mix in the corn starch and cook for 10 minutes or so. When it's done, put it in a pie dish and cover with the mashed potato. This then goes under a griller until the potato browns a little, and you're good to go.

We used to eat this pretty regularly as kids, but there's something special about doing it to the beat of Keith's mum's drum.

And washing it down with a Bud or two at the Cove.

Having finished the pie last night it was time to contemplate the lobster feed. On the way up to Halifax and Truro for working a couple of weekends back we overnighted at a place called Shediac, on the New Brunswick shore across the strait from Prince Edward Island. Shediac had called out from the Lonely Planet as a likely place to stop. So it proved. There was free public access internet on the old wharf, now turned into a board walk. And a nice newly renovated motel in front of the drive in movie theatre. We asked the owners about lobster meals – it was still a week or so ahead of the season opening – and they responded by asking us in turn if we wanted a lobster dinner or a lobster feed.

As anyone who has ever written anything we've ever published will know very well, this is the kind of distinction we can relate to. There is something indescribably majestic about its discriminating power. So we stored it away until we were in a position to do it justice.

That turned out to be today. Like all good distinctions there is ultimately only one side to the story, and so the feed it was going to be. The only question was: “when?”

As it happens, today did not dawn as the likely day. There was banking to do in Corner Brook – a small matter of trying to wire money to Mexico for paying the insurance premium on the apartment. But on the way we called into the library to see if the summer hours were operating yet, following the end of the school year. (The library is the free public internet site. It has wireless, which you can get from the car in the car park – shades of Shediac – but long stints call for working inside.) The note on the door informed us that today was a public holiday. A call to the bank affirmed that. There was nothing to do but head back to the Cove and do other things. Just before reaching our place Michele wondered whether it would be a good opportunity to go to the Little Port wharf and see if there were any lobster. So we went to the wharf and within a few minutes had 3 good sized lobsters.

Washed down with a chilled 2004 bottle of Matua Valley Chardonnay (Matua is one of New Zealand's better wineries, imho), and accompanied by some garlic buttered pita, and a simple salad, the meal may well have dissolved the distinction between a lobster dinner and a lobster feed.

Which, I guess, is how it probably should be, with modernity behind us now.

Happy summer!!

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